England v India, NatWest series August 28, 2007

If it ain't fixed, go for broke

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan believes it's time for India to think out of the box in their batting to keep alive the ODI series against England

India possess a manic hitter who averages 71.22 while batting at No. 3. Mahendra Singh Dhoni doesn't mind batting anywhere and is the sort you'd want to back in such situations © Getty Images

Rahul Dravid, the Indian captain, must be feeling like a race-car driver running on empty. India started the series without many bowling options and have reached the halfway point with little to expect from its fielding. The batting order is still not settled and with four games left - and no time to refuel, such is the packed schedule - the team needs to pull something out of the hat to win the series.

The batting is strong but some cracks remain. Dinesh Karthik's promotion to No. 3 was an experiment that didn't work at Edgbaston but it was a gamble worth taking. He'd handled the new ball in the Tests and could be asked to hold the innings together in ODIs as well. With stroke-players around him, and no slouch himself, here's a chance to mould a No. 3 for the future.

Dravid's statements after the game at Edgbaston suggested their plan was to persist with Karthik at No. 3. "It was not impulsive, he would have gone in at No. 3 the other day as well," he said. "It's just that [in Bristol] we got a good start and decided to send Yuvraj. Dinesh [Karthik] has done well in this tour as an opener so we wanted to give him more chances. He got out today, but that is OK. It's part and parcel of the game and look at someone like Ian Bell. They have given him a lot of time. Therein lies a lesson for everybody."

However, India must ask themselves some questions: Are they going to win this series by building innings brick by brick or will they need to infuse some mayhem? Do they have the all-round game to get at England or do they need a shock weapon to unsettle the opposition?

Paul Collingwood's comment on England's fearless approach is instructive. "You try to have a new approach after you take over the captaincy and you introduce new tactics. To play good cricket you need to set a pattern and we're trying to filter it [fearlessness] and streamline it into our blood."

With their options slowly closing, India could do worse than launch a full-scale destruction mission, doing something unexpected.

India possess a manic hitter who averages 71.22 while batting at No. 3. Mahendra Singh Dhoni doesn't mind batting anywhere and is the sort you'd want to back in such situations. He can either be a spectacular success or a spectacular failure but is worth a punt. Dhoni has two hundreds and two fifties from that position and few would have forgotten his explosive 183 against Sri Lanka in Jaipur, while chasing a target of 299.

Dhoni at three would split the experienced batsmen. India will still look to Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly for starts and continue to rely on Rahul Dravid to finish but Dhoni could be used to trigger a momentum shift. As with Virender Sehwag in the past, a quick 30 or 40 from him could alter the dynamics of the match and catch England napping. He needs to be given carte blanche to express himself in the early overs. If he gets out in the process, so be it.

Robin Uthappa is another batsmen with a wild streak but it's going to be tough to fit him into the XI, especially with the five-bowler combination. Yet the longer India play safe, the farther the series will slip from them. When none of your plans are working you might as well go for broke. And if you're really going down, might as well go down swinging.

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is assistant editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Jose on August 30, 2007, 13:27 GMT

    Karthik & Dravid should open the Innings. Dhoni, Dravid, Sachin, Yuvaraj Singh, Piyush Chawla, Ajit Agarkar, Powar, Zaheer khan & RP Singh should be the order.

  • Harish on August 30, 2007, 11:50 GMT

    Let us hope Sachin and Sourav do not hit centuries...they tend to consume an entire 50 overs for the same.

    Where is the problem : our seniors? huge attitude, prima donna status and little attention to detail. Or the emerging superstars? Impulsive and poor finishers. Or the juniors? Insecure and juggled with.

    Maybe the problem is outside the cricket ground : A Congress MP as Manager, a geriatric as 'stand-in' coach and a clique as adminstrators.

    You know the shit has hit the ceiling when the guys have to watch 'Chak De India' to motivate themselves.

    God bless India.

  • Jose on August 30, 2007, 11:23 GMT

    India's ODI squad at the moment is not par less than worst. Although batting performance is just average, poor fielding is letting down good bowlers like Zaheer and RP Singh. This stresses the importance of young players in the team, who are obviously more dynamic than 30+ immobile players. Ajit Agarkar is a big blot in ODI team and nobody understands his value in the team. I assume his presence is because of dirty regional politics of Vengsarkar. Although Munaf took few important wickets in the team, his lack of bowling discipline is not saving any match. Only man in the squad playing with confidence is Rahul and Yuvaraj. Sachin & Ganguly as openers are completely failed to capitalize the power play, hence we need an aggressive player like Virendar Sehwag who can accelerate the momentum in the early overs. Moreover, he can be handy with spinning the ball (extra bowler) and he is also known for fabulous fielding. Indian team looks like a complex zig saw puzzle to crack.

  • Naveen on August 30, 2007, 10:44 GMT

    If one could see the fact that other than some of our top players like Sachin, dravid, ganguly, kumble etc rest all have been like just temporary attachments. This definitely affects the players commitment. Especially for this series,since the English batsmen are accoustomed to most of our bowlers who are amatuers, i would rather bring in Irfan pathan and Harbajan back in the series. These two players cud replace agarkar and powar and moreover they have won matches for us and they have a very great attitude as well. Move ganguly or karthik out and get Uthappa who plays fearlessly. These new and fresh blood could change the whole scene. We have nothing to loose but only to gain. This way the opponent also will have to relook at their strategy and with the comeback attitude of new squad u never know how things turn. You've got be aggressive and attitude is all that matters fellas. Players should go in thinking that every match is their last chance. Come india play for the pride....!

  • Andy on August 30, 2007, 10:05 GMT

    Terrific series, although India are making a fledgling England side look better than they are. India are carrying too many old campaigners. Will Ganguly really be there in the next World Cup? Time for Uthappa to come in.

  • Thewalker on August 30, 2007, 10:00 GMT

    This should be the team (in batting order):

    Sachin,Saurav,Dhoni,Yuvraj,Dravid,Uthappa,Karthik,Pawar,Zaheer,Chawla and RP Singh.

    We do not have a fifth bowler at the moment: at least a bowler who can control the run flow or take wickets. So, four bowlers plus Sachin+Saurav+Yuvraj will do the job adequately.

    Our fielding is pathetic, agreed. But I am sure that Dravid can be a little bit more imaginative and bold. Why make a decent keeper like Karthik field while a poor keeper like Dhoni keep wickets? Neither of them is a Kirmani, true, but is not Karthik the better keeper? If Dhoni has a place in the team just because he keeps wickets - that is stupid because he is an explosive batsman - it is no different from the days when Dravid, despite his pitiful strike rate kept wickets to just stay in the team.

    ABout time this nonsense is ended. We need a keeper who can also bat and not the other way round.

  • George on August 30, 2007, 8:21 GMT

    Drop Dhoni, Zaheer, sachin, dravid and ganguly. Make Agarkar indian captian. He is such a nice all rounder.He can be a good captian too.

  • Anand on August 30, 2007, 7:22 GMT

    I think India Should drop Ajit Agarkar, he is not at all an allrounder, RP Sing and Powar must be given a pat at theri back to improve the field skills, as catches win matches. Bring back Harbajan and Irfan Pathan who have done very well for India A. Saurav should be rested and bring either Uthappa or Gambir, as the fielding would improve a bit. You dont need fifth bowler option if RP sing is going to give 50+ runs in his quote, which i am sure sachin and yuvi will do better job. Why not try sreesanth in this odi series?

  • Ramesh on August 30, 2007, 6:48 GMT

    We need to seriously examine Ganguly's value. Though he is a fine batsman, he is a poor cricketer. While he has been getting off to starts, it is (I think)around 70 innings since he got a hundred, certainly apalling for a once great opener! In addition, he doesn't rotate the strike when he's batting, and his mind seems to wander when he is off strike, as a result of which the poor guy at the other end can't take singles either.In fact his running would cost a schoolboy his place in the school side. All you have to watch is the way ,say, Cook backs up to the way Ganguly stays rooted while he ball-watches. Sad, but true.

  • Asim on August 30, 2007, 6:11 GMT

    Well when you drop match winning players like Sehvag this is what you have to go through. Sehvag should never have been dropped, he could have easily batted at No.3 with 20 overs of field restrictions and against a semi new ball he could have been even more effective.

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